Irrigation scam: Maharashtra government finally announces SIT probe

A determined Opposition had blocked the proceedings of the legislature seeking an inquiry by SIT into a multi-crore scam in various irrigation projects, particularly in the drought-prone Vidarbha region

Nagpur: Maharashtra government on Monday announced a probe by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) into the alleged irrigation scam, bowing to pressure from the Opposition which stalled the proceedings of the state legislature for five days, reports PTI.


The announcement by Water Resources Minister Sunil Tatkare came a little over a fortnight after a government 'Whitepaper' virtually gave a clean chit to senior NCP leader Ajit Pawar, paving the way for his return as Deputy Chief Minister earlier this month.


"The SIT probe will be headed by Madhav Chitaley, an irrigation expert, and the terms and references of the probe would be finalised by 31st December," Tatkare told the House.


A determined Opposition had blocked the proceedings of the legislature seeking an inquiry by SIT into a multi-crore scam in various irrigation projects, particularly in the drought-prone Vidarbha region.


Leader of Opposition Eknath Khadse, while welcoming the SIT probe, demanded that the SIT's terms and references be made public and that officers allegedly facing corruption charges be kept out of the probe team.


MNS group leader Bala Nandgaokar and PWP's Ganpatrao Deshmukh also welcomed the probe and demanded its conclusion within a time frame.


Khadse said since PILs were pending before the High Court over the alleged scam, the government should inform it about the proposed SIT inquiry and seek court's guidelines on how to go about it.


Tatkare informed the House that the inquiry will not pose any hurdle in completion of pending projects.


A week after the 'whitepaper' virtually gave a clean chit to Ajit Pawar, nephew of NCP chief and Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, the former was sworn in as Deputy Chief Minister on 7th December.


No rate cut on Tuesday? Rate cuts possible in H1 2013, says Nomura

 Nomura expects a cumulative 50 basis points of repo rate cuts in H1 2013, starting with a 25bps move in January 2013

Headline WPI inflation fell to a lower-than-expected 7.24% y-o-y in November 2012 from 7.45% in October. The positive surprise came across the board, with a particularly sharp fall in core inflation to 4.5% in November from 5.2% in October. Nomura, in its Asia Insights report, expects inflation to remain around November levels in December, easing to around 7% by March 2013. Further, it is expected that there will be a total 50 basis points (bps) of repo rate cuts in H1 2013, starting with a 25 bps move in January 2013. Nomura expects no change in the policy review tomorrow.


Inflationary pressures are likely to start rebuilding in H2 2013, due to rupee depreciation, a narrowing output gap and higher food prices. Hence, it is expected that the rate cut window will close and policy rates will remain on hold in H2 2013. From an Indian rates strategy perspective, the fall in WPI inflation supports our strategic medium-term bullish view.


Headline WPI inflation fell to a lower-than-expected 7.24% y-o-y (year-on-year) in November from 7.45% in October. Food inflation (primary and manufactured) rose to 9.0% y-o-y from 7.7%, while core inflation (non-food manufactured) fell sharply to 4.5% y-o-y from 5.2%; fuel prices also declined to 10% from 11.7%.


There was a positive surprise on inflation on Friday. First, primary articles inflation rose less than expected due to a sharp 2.4% m-o-m (month-on-month) decline in mineral prices, more than offsetting the rise in primary food and non-food prices in the month. Second, the fuel index fell 0.6% m-o-m reflecting the lagged effect of lower oil prices. Third, manufacturing inflation rose by a muted 0.1% m-o-m, compared to an average of 0.5% over the past five months due to a sharp fall in cement, metal, chemical and leather prices. Is this sustainable?


Nomura does not see Friday’s reading as the start of a trend as it expects momentum in inflation to rise. This is also reflected in the continuing upward revisions with the September WPI revised higher to 8.07% from 7.81%. In Nomura’s view, Friday’s surprise is due to a delayed downward adjustment in the WPI basket reflecting the benefits from rupee appreciation in September.


Both the input and output price sub-indices of the manufacturing PMI rose sharply in November, suggesting this downtrend has reversed. Historically, Nomura finds the PMI price indices to be a good lead indicator for momentum in WPI inflation.


Food prices usually decline during the winter months. This did not happen in FY11, which caused year-on-year food inflation to fall sharply in the winter months of FY12. In FY13, food prices have been following a normal pattern and therefore food inflation should not spike too much. Market-determined fuel prices have already risen in December reflecting rupee depreciation in October/ November. Further, Nomura believes that core inflation is close to its trough as suggested by the rise in the PMI output price index. Even as month-on-month momentum is likely to pick up, base effects are likely to ensure that headline year-on-year WPI inflation remains around the November level in December and eases to around 7% by March. Inflation is unlikely to sustainably fall below 7%, in Nomura’s view, as global commodity prices and rupee-dollar rate remain in a range.


The probability of a rate cut tomorrow (18th December) has risen to around 35%, in Nomura’s view. Arguments that hold true for a January rate cut also hold true for tomorrow’s meeting. Inflation has panned much below the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) projected trajectory. When it meets tomorrow, Nomura expects the RBI to reiterate its guidance for a rate cut in January-March.


As Nomura highlighted in its 2013 outlook, Asia’s overheating risks (28 November 2012), it is believed that a window for rate cuts will open in H1 2013 as headline and core inflation remain in check. Nomura expects a cumulative 50bps of repo rate cuts in H1 2013, starting with a 25bps move in January. However, it is expected that inflationary pressures will start rebuilding in H2 2013, due to rupee depreciation, a narrowing output gap and higher food prices, resulting in policy rates remaining on hold in H2 2013.


The latest WPI inflation print gives further credence to Nomura’s medium-term strategic view that market rates in India are falling. Having said that, it is believed the most likely timing for a policy rate move by the RBI is 29th January, in line with its guidance.


Moneylife Foundation hosts second RTI workshop for advanced users

Former CIC Shailesh Gandhi specified important orders that applicants can quote in certain situations and also provided several constructive suggestions on filing appeals, in an extremely engaging session at Moneylife Foundation for advanced users of the RTI Act

The second session for the advanced users of the Right to Information (RTI) Act began with Shailesh Gandhi, former Central Information Commissioner who holds the highest record for disposing cases involving Right to Information, by providing a brief background on the evolution of the RTI. He said, “Freedom of expression without the Right to Information is meaningless”, citing the importance of information in a diverse democratic country like India. He said that information must exist if one has to file an RTI, without which no information will be given. Information usually exists in public domain and in public records.


The session empowered users to use the inspection provision effectively during the appeal process, as the opportunities of getting information is better. Speaking at Moneylife Foundation’s fourth Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI) workshop for regular users of the RTI.


Mr Gandhi explained common apprehensions of the provisions under the RTI act prevalent among participants as well as information officers and offered interesting viewpoints and suggestions as well as opinions and clues on how to pursue the case in the appeal process and minimize delays in obtaining relevant information.


The former CIC emphasized that in order to realize the potential of being citizens of the world’s largest democracy; the citizens have to effectively play the role of a monitor to apprehend the concept of a participatory democracy. He constantly stressed that activists must engage with the media at regular intervals as the Right to Information movement is a collective effort of individuals which enables activists to put across the message to the masses.


Mr Gandhi reiterated that activists must keep their language civil, avoid rambling applications and not take an adversarial attitude towards public information commissioners (PIOs) or at the appellate hearings. The session was replete with plenty of interesting anecdotes and examples from his vast experience as the Central Information Commissioner and as an activist. He also urged participants to use previous specific orders of the Central Information Commission (CIC) as potential reference points to enable activists argue their case effectively. 


Responding to how an RTI query can be refused, Mr Gandhi patiently explained the lead provisions of the RTI are contained in the Section 8 (1) (j) by providing anecdotes and instances of how PIOs refuse RTI queries. The most common excuse being that the information falls under a fiduciary capacity.


On being asked the process on the way ahead if RTI application is refused, Mr Gandhi pointed out that “information which would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders” can be refused. The keyword here is ‘impede’ and most PIOs misuse this word. If an RTI query is turned down based on this ground, the PIO must give the reason how and why it impedes an investigation. 


Mr Gandhi mentioned that we must obey the due process of law and respect the verdicts and information has to be recorded judiciously in order to fight our case effectively.  Towards the end of the session, he talked about how India can become an example for inclusive and participatory democracy by filing regular RTI appeals. He said that unless we as Indian citizens protest against the dilution of the RTI Act and use RTI effectively as a consumer empowerment tool it lies in danger of becoming redundant or even irrelevant.


You can access videos of past Moneylife Foundation events on our Moneylife TV channel on YouTube over here


If you’d like to empower yourself, do join Moneylife Foundation for free. It costs nothing and you will be part of one of the fastest growing communities in India. Click here to join Moneylife Foundation and get a free e-book, if you haven’t already. 

Details of all other events can be found over here.


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